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North Sierra Tree Improvement Association

Soper-Wheeler's "Wildhog" NSTIA test plot 2 years after planting
Green Ponderosa Pine cones at the Foresthill seed orchard

Green Ponderosa Pine cones at the NSTIA seed orchard outside of Malin, Oregon.

In 1974, private timberland owners and scientists from the University of California met in Redding with the goals of better forest growth, decreased seedling mortality, and lower forest disease while preserving and protecting the genetic base of Ponderosa Pine.

Soper-Wheeler and 25 other participants formed a cooperative later known as the North Sierra Tree Improvement Association, or NSTIA. Each member pledged to donate their best trees and commit financial support to long-term research and development.

Although the techniques of cross-pollination and rooted cuttings were nothing new, no one had applied them to forestry in the Sierra Nevada before. It was anticipated that it would take years of research to perfect an efficient technique.

Working in conjunction with UC Berkeley professor Bill Libby, Soper-Wheeler planted series of test plots where research on cuttings could be done. At the same time, the Company identified and collected seed from superior trees and propagated those seedlings in conjunction with the US Forest Service for further study.

US Forest Service Ponderosa Pine seed orchard outside of Foresthill, California.

US Forest Service Ponderosa Pine seed orchard outside of Malin, Oregon.

Meanwhile NSTIA established a “seed orchard” miles away from any other pine and started controlled cross-pollination of superior trees. In 1993, the first cone crop from the seed orchard was harvested and distributed to co-op members.

Soper-Wheeler, the Forest Service, and other participants tested these seedlings in a series of progeny sites, as well as in regular planting regimes with excellent results.

We are now in the second generation of the program, and the growth rate and vigor in the latest progeny sites are obvious. Seedling mortality has dropped substantially, and the trees sequester carbon at a measurably higher rate than randomly pollinated seed. At full production it is anticipated that 10 million seedlings per year can be produced.

Click on the images below to enlarge.

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